Comments from Rick Levy of Woodhull Foundation
Thursday, December 11 2008 @ 09:36 AM MST
Contributed by: Admin
Part of the work we're doing at Woodhull is "movement messaging" -
restructuring the discourse around sex and sexuality. Part of that
work involves research - focus groups - to "test" messages. This isn't
a new technique. The "right" has perfected the technique over the
last twenty years and they have owned the debate - not just around
sexual freedom issues, but also taxes, the environment, spying and
even torture (no, not THAT kind!).
One thing you would notice about the words used by the right (that are
now used by us without even thinking about whether they're negative -
like the word "alternative" or "lifestyle") is that they're positive
words. Changing "abortion" to "pro-LIFE". Changing a "inheritance
tax" to "DEATH tax" in the hopes of getting the death tax repealed.
Classifying any sexual expression outside of some mythical "norm" as
Once these words are out there and part of our everyday dialog, even
among ourselves, when we enter a discussions we are already on "their"
turf; we've given over half of the debate. We become defensive
(rightly so) and are always in the position of having the respond to
an assertion (reactive) rather than simply stating our position.
There is a tip given to people being trained in political discourse or
media interviews and that is to use your own sound bites and avoid
repeating the statement you're trying to defeat or correct. So
imagine a debate where someone says "bdsm is a sick lifestyle where
you hurt each other and engage in risky behavior". If you respond
"bdsm is NOT a sick lifestyle and the hurt we inflict is consensual
and the behavior isn't risky" then you've repeated their negative
words, and the listener has now heard their words twice. Your message
is almost certainly lost - the "not" and the "consensual" . If you
were to respond by ignoring their statement and giving your own "sound
bite" - perhaps something along the lines of "We are adults engaging
in consensual sexual expression with other adults." you make a much
I want to make the point that an audience
is usually divided into three sections. There are the people who already believe your message and will agree with you on just about everything you say. There are the people who disagree with your message and are not going to be convinced no matter what you say. And there are the people who may not have a strong opinion one way or the other but could be swayed. That last group is your target audience when you are speaking.
Huckabee was not, for instance, going to be convinced of the absolute
rightness of Stewart's arguments - any more than Stewart was going to
be convinced by the calm, rational, intelligent argument Huckabee
made. And people watching the debate were going to fall into the two
first categories I listed above. The target (for social and political
change) was the last group - and the hope, of course, is that someone
in that last group has an "ah HA" moment and begins to form an opinion
that is positive for sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.
And on a very personal note, but also for Woodhull, I can't even find
the words to describe the excitement and feeling of accomplishment for
us when Jon Stewart used the words "fundamental human right." Five
years ago, when Woodhull was founded, those words, that phrase, was
not part of the public discourse around sex and sexuality, sexual
expression and sexual freedom. And now there it is on national
television! Yay all of us!!
http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=rHaVUjjH3EI
West Wing “Biblical Quotes”
President: I’m sorry you’re Dr. Jenna Jacobs right?
Dr. Jacobs: Yes, Sir
President: It’s good to have you here
Dr. Jacobs: Thank you.
President: The awesome impact of the airwaves, and how that
translates into the furthering of our national discussions, but
obviously also how it can, it can, (cough…long pause) forgive me,
Dr. Jacobs, are you an MD?
Dr. Jacobs: A PhD
President: A PhD,
Dr. Jacobs: Yes, Sir
Dr. Jacobs: No, Sir
Dr. Jacobs: No
President: Social Work?
Dr. Jacobs: I have a PhD in English Literature
President: I’m asking because people on your show call in for advice
and you go by the name “Dr. Jacobs” on your show, and I didn’t know if
maybe your listeners were confused by that and assumed you had
advanced training in psychology, theology, or health care.
Dr. Jacobs I don’t believe they are confused, no, sir.
President: Good, I like your show; I like how you call homosexuality
Dr. Jacobs I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination sir, the Bible
President: Yes, it does. Leviticus
Dr. Jacobs: 18:22
President: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple questions
wile I had you here. I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter
into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown
sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was
her turn- what would a good price for her be?
President: While thinking about that can I ask another? My Chief of
Staff, Leo McGary, insists on working on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:2
clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to
kill him myself, or is it ok to call the police?
President: Here’s one that is really important, cause we’ve got a lot
of sports fans in this town, touching the skin of a dead pig makes one
unclean, Leviticus 11:7; if they promise to wear gloves can the
Washington Redskins still play football, can Notre Dame, can West
Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my
brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my
Mother in a small family gathering for wearing a garment made from two
President: Think about those questions would you? One last thing,
while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the
ignorant tight-ass club, in this building, when the President
stands, nobody sits.
[Long pause, she stands, reluctantly]
Jon Stewart: We're talking with Governor Mike Huckabee. His book is "Do
The Right Thing".
We talked a little bit about fiscal conservatism in the first one- I
want to talk to you about social conservatism, 'cause this is really
about you wanting the Republican Party to get back to those basics and
respectfully speaking, the one thing I guess I don't understand about
social conservatives. .. I get pro life and I think that's probably
their number one issue and it's very easy for me to understand it and
it's very easy for me to understand that we all should work together
to reduce the number, at the very least, with the goal of ending...
The gay marriage issue and why conservatives are against it- you write
that marriage is the bedrock of our society. Why would you not want
more couples to buy into the stability of marriage- why would you want
that precluded for an entire group of people?
Governor Huckabee: Well, marriage still means one man one woman, life
relationship. I think people have a right to live any way they want
to. But even anatomically- let's face it, the only way that we can
create the next generation is through a male female relationship. For
5000 years of recorded human history, that's what marriage has meant.
30 states have had it on the ballot and in all 30 states, it's passed-
even in states like California, that nobody would suggest are social
conservatives, leading the state of California.
Stewart: 30 states had Mike Huckabee on the ballot and they went with
McCain- listen, you can't trust the voters! The voters don't know!
Huckabee: But the point being, in those states, Jon, an average of 68%
of the voters across America have affirmed traditional marriage- it's
not that they have tried to say they're gonna ban something, as much
as they're gonna affirm what has always been-
Stewart: California did ban it, in essense they said you can't get
Huckabee: Actually, they have reaffirmed what they had done before-
Stewart: But people got married in the interim and- then they went
back and said you're not- I guess my question is...
You said, reaffirming the tradition of marriage over 5000 years, which
takes it back to the Old Testament, where polygamy was the norm, not a
heterosexual marriage between two couples [sic] that choose each other.
Marriage has evolved greatly over those 5000 years, from a property
arrangement, polygamy... we've redefined it constantly. It used to be
that people of different races could not... marry.
It strikes me as very convenient, to go back to the Bible and say,
"Hey, man... we gotta look at the way they define marriage..." Why
don't we look at the way they did slavery, in the Bible?
Huckabee: But if we change the definition, then we really do have to
change it to accomodate all lifestyles. We have to say to the guy in
West Texas, who had 27 wives, that's okay. And I'm not sure that I
hear alot of people arguing that that's a great idea.
Stewart: I don't know why polygamy has an issue here. It seems like a
fundamental human right. You write in your book that all people are
created equal, and yet, for gay people, you belive it is corrosive to
society to allow them to have the privledges that all humans enjoy.
Huckabee: Well, there is a difference between the equality of each
individual and the equality of what we do and the sameness of what we
do. I mean, the fact is, marriage is under our law a privelegde; it's
not an absolute defined right.
Stewart: So what if we make it that Hispanics can't vote?
Huckabee: Well, I don't think that's a really good idea. I'm not sure
that we should do that.
Stewart: So why can't gay people get married?
Huckabee: Well, because marriage still means a male and a female
relationship. And until the laws are overturned, it still means that.
Stewart: I disagree. I think, you know... segregation used to be the
law until the courts intervened.
Huckabee: There is a big difference between a person being black, and
a person practicing a lifestyle and engaging in a marital relationship
Stewart: Okay. This is helpful. This gets to the crux of it- I think
it's the difference of between what you believe gay people are and
what I do. And I live in New York City, so I'm just gonna make a
suppostition that I have more experience being around them...
(laughter and applause)
And I'll tell you this. Religion is far more of a choice than
homosexuality. And the protections that we have, for religion- we
protect religion- and talk about a lifestyle choice! That is
absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay.
At what age did you choose not to be gay?
Huckabee: But Jon, religious people don't have the right to burn
others at the stake; they don't have the right to do anything they
wish to do-
Stewart: You're not being asked to marry a guy. They're asking to
marry the person they love.
Huckabee: But they're asking to redefine the word. And frankly, we're
probably not going to come to terms. But if the American people are
not convinced that we should overturn the definition of marriage, then
I would say that those who support the idea of same sex marriage have
got alot of work to do, to convince the rest of us, and as I said, 68%
of the American population has made that decision.
Stewart: You talk about the pro life movement being one of the great
shames of our nation. I think, if you want number two, I think it's, I
think it's that. It's an absolute- it's a travesty that people have
forced, someone who is gay, to have to make their case- that they
deserve the same basic rights-
Huckabee: Jon, excuse me, I respect you and I disagree with that- I
really do- and one of the things that I want to make sure that people
understand is that if a person does not necessarily support the idea
of changing the definition of marriage, it does not mean that they are
a homophobe. It does not mean that they are filled with hate and
Stewart: I was in no way suggesting-
Huckabee: No no, you were not saying that, but I think some people
would like to throw the epithets at some people, whether they're like
me, or someone else-
Stewart: But it does beg the question, I have to say, and again... is
You know, you keep talking about, jeez, it would be redefining a
word... and it feels like semantics is cold comfort, when it comes to
humanity and especially someone such as yourself, who is I believe an
empathetic person who is someone who seeks to get to the heart of
problems, this idea that, "Jeez, I dunno Jon, definitions and
society..." I mean, marriage was not even a sacrament until the 1200s...
Huckabee: Words do matter. Definitions matter. And I think that we
have to be very thoughtful and careful before we say that we are going
to undo an entire social structure. I mean, let's face it, the basic
purpose of a marriage is not just to create the next generation but to
train our replacements. And it is in the context of 23 male and 23
female chromosomes coming together at the point of conception to
create the next human life.
Stewart: I think you are looking at sexuality and not attributes, and
it's odd because the conservative mantra is a meritocracy, and I think
what you are suggesting is the fact that being gay parents makes you
not as good as others and i would suggest that a gay, loving family
with a financially stable background beats the hell out of Britney
Spears and Kevin Federline any day of the week.
Huckabee: I'm not gonna defend Britney and Kevin, for sure.
Stewart: But I appreciate you having the conversation and I just, uh,
it's just, it's just wild.
Huckabee: Well, Jon, I just want you to know I'm not going to marry
you. Under any circumstances. I'm just not.
Stewart:(laughing) Fine, appreciate that. "Do The Right Thing", is on
bookshelves now. Governor, thank you so much.
Huckabee: Thank you, Jon.
============ ========= ========
Ricci Joy Levy, Executive Director
The Woodhull Freedom Foundation
1325 Massachusetts Avenue
Washington, DC 20005
Direct Line: 610.212.5555
Woodhull Freedom Foundation works to affirm sexual freedom as a
fundamental human right by creating a world
where all individuals are free to engage in consensual sexual
expression without societal or government interference